It’s certainly still early days, but the poorest British film of the year may just be about to rear its repugnant head (and we’re not referring back to Danny Dyer farce Run for Your Wife). Sara Sugarman’s Vinyl (2012) wants to be a breezy tale of old rockers sticking it to the ‘man’. Sadly, it turns out to be a cliché-ridden bore, with a grasp on reality which makes Hollyoaks look like a restrained, Ramin Bahrani-like character study by comparison. The film is based on the true-life tale of Mike Peters (from 1980s outfit The Alarm) who assembled an imaginary Milli Vanilli-type band to get one over on the major record labels.
This set-up, in itself, offers a fairly intriguing premise, but director and co-writer Sugarman saps the film of any potential interest early one, offering up an unimaginative, lame-brained affair in its place. Phil Daniels (hamming it up to an unbearable level) is Johnny Jones, the ex-frontman of a punk/new wave band who enjoyed a modicum of success decades back. He now lives with his long-suffering girlfriend in a series of caravans (?!) in Wales, endlessly wallowing in misplaced nostalgia.
A drunken reunion and jam with his old band members (including Keith Allen, replete with a broad “Ayup, chuck” northern accent) results in the creation of a new song which Jones naively believes has the potential to get them back on top (which decade is he living in?). Venturing to London in the hope of blagging a glittering new record deal, he’s told that the band is seriously past their sell-by date. The song, however, begins to get some decent airplay on radio stations, and Johnny concocts a plan to employ a young group of kids to act as a decoy for his group while they churn out new material.
Shot like an 80s BBC kids show, Sugarman’s Vinyl really is barrel-scraping stuff. Intros to scenes and establishing shots are of a sitcom standard, and the horribly contrived affair lumbers along until a truly cringeworthy ending, where the old group ‘comically’ infiltrate a ‘yoof’ TV music programme, which is in the middle of showcasing their mock band. The lack of budget is painfully obvious, yet that alone can’t be blamed for the film’s shortcomings, and the only bright spark amongst this mess is young actor Jamie Blackley, who plays the imaginary lead singer. Avoid at all costs.